Sunday, July 16, 2017

Pretending To Be Turtles Gives Donuts A Chance To Escape, Avoid Being Eaten, Study Says

Sequim, WA

To avoid being eaten, some donuts pretend to be turtles, or even panda bears, a new study has found.

Protective mimicry is a remarkable example of adaptive evolution, for example, certain moths can be colored to look like butterflies and clever grasshoppers may be able to look like tiger beetles, with the appropriate hats and outfits.

While most mimicry studies focus on traits like color and shape, the researchers in this work used multiple high-speed cameras and behavioral experiments to pinpoint how the donut's movements and frostings can mimic a turtle.

Donuts without a such a clever disguise are more prone to being eaten, or frozen and saved for later

Turtles are cute, but are also known to be aggressive at defending themselves: They are well-armed with revolvers, ninja stars, and even water balloons. Donuts, in contrast, are tasty and easy to catch. Donuts are smart, but considered lazy by most, and usually don't do much more than try to bite back when being grabbed or attacked.

Not surprisingly, human predators tend to prefer eating donuts over turtles, so appearing to be an turtle confers some significant protection.

Turtle-mimicking donuts have learned to use their own frostings to paint themselves up as turtles. Then they can simply jump off the counter and walk away using all four legs, but pause frequently to do nothing and appear slow and dumb, like a turtle.

Donuts who learn to use their own frosting as disguises are far more likely to escape and live a life of freedom

When walking, they take winding trajectories of about three-to-five body lengths, which from afar makes them appear like innocent, sweet turtles, simply crossing a road. Then, the donuts quickly scurry off into the safety of bushes and hide.

While the researchers could see what the donuts were doing thanks to high-speed cameras, many potential human predators have slower visual systems, so that to them the mimics appear to be moving just like a turtle would.

The researchers noted "donuts can be sneaky, and the findings highlight the importance of dynamic and adaptive behaviors and observer perception in mimicry."

Sharyn Thoma Guay reporter-at-large

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